All posts in learning.

  • My favorite books of last year

    I don’t watch TV and only watch movies in airplanes and as a social activity. I’ve heard there are some really great TV series out, and enjoy the movies I do get to see, I just never seem to find the time.

    When I walk into the door of my apartment, the first thing I do is switch my headset to my bluetooth speaker to continue the podcast or audiobook I’m listening to. I move around the house listening to stories, from when I wake up to when I go to bed. While I should learn to appreciate the silence because I know the benefits of boredom, the idea of not listening and learning something gives me serious FOMO.

    So bear in mind that’s hard for me to widdle down a list of books to recommend because I’m often like “but that book taught me to look at X thing in Y way!”

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  • Take a look, it’s in a book

    In the beautiful wisdom of of the Reading Rainbow theme song, I’d like to invite you all to take a look, because it’s in a book. A reading rainbow.

    Something magical happened that will change my life for the better ever after.

    I learned that I can borrow audiobooks from the San Francisco library from an app on my phone. Everyone: This is revolutionary for an audiobook fiend like myself. Like a junky, I have spent nearly a year trying to get by on my one measly Audible audiobook a month subscription plan (that I used my adult money to finally subscribe too) and filled in the rest of my days with podcasts (not the worst, but just sayin’). When I discovered that I could borrow audiobooks from the library digitally, I was beside myself with joy. I’ve told nearly everyone I’ve met about it even though they don’t really care. I can get nearly all the books I want directly into my hearing holes! ::TEARS::. (I have already read 10 books since January 1).

    The very first book I checked out? Between the World and Me—they had it! It’s been on my to-read list for over a year now and I was so excited. This is a beautiful, beautiful book that should be on everyone’s to-read. It reads like poetry and I’m so glad I got to hear his story. If you only read one book this year (why would you do that though?), this might be it.

    When I finished, it happened to be February 1st and my app was recommending a bunch of other similar books…oh wait, it was Black History Month. As a terrible human who doesn’t do nearly enough to help others on this unforgiving planet, I thought maybe one small way I could understand someone else’s life was to read books by black authors this month (although it took a little longer to finish them). I realized that I have been reading so many non-fiction science/psychology books lately and haven’t really dove into stories in a while.

    Every bookworm will tell you, books are window into another life. It’s one of the few ways to immerse yourself in another’s experiences and feelings. It’s really incredible how powerful books can be. I haven’t read a huge diversity of authors besides White Dudes so I thought this was the perfect nudge in that direction. I have this belief that if you read and feel for another person’s experience it just has to change how you act in the world. I wonder what kind of story needs to be told in order to change someone’s mind. Statistics are great and help us make hard decisions. But the humanities keep us human.

    Here are the books I read:


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  • When a protest is like a funeral

    A This I Believe episode that’s always stuck with me is “Always go to the funeral.” Going to a funeral is a life event you go to not for yourself, but for others. Especially if you’re close to the deceased. It’s an act of generosity for you to attend something that might be sad, painful, and uncomfortable. But you’re doing it to celebrate life of someone else and to support those left behind. I think about this maxim a lot when I have to go somewhere I don’t want to. A friend has invited me to something far away or it’s raining or I’m tired or a million other little excuses. I don’t want to go, but I muster my introverted body onto a bus and shuttle myself over because I know it would mean a lot to them. It’s a small effort on my part—a negligible sacrifice of the quiet evening at home I pine for—that is impactful to my friend. It’s this lost art of being reliable and the maturity to do things that you might not be over-the-moon excited for.

    I hope you, especially my male friends, will consider attending the Women’s March on Washington this Saturday, wherever your call home. To be honest, it’s not something that I thought I would participate in even a few weeks ago. I don’t really want to go, but I would regret not doing it. I would regret not taking showing my support and taking a stand on women’s issues. It’s like…I don’t want be a feminist. I really don’t want to be a feminist. Until the passed couple of years I’ve resisted all things feminine. But feminism was forced upon me. The older I got, it wasn’t just being aware of bad things that happen to other women or unwittingly to me (unrealistic standards of beauty, unequal pay, or violence), it was confronting it myself over and over again. Listening to my co-workers undermine my authority in front of clients, listening to them sexualize women in front of me (I had to look up what motor boating meant), and once, when he was drunk, my manager mentioned my weight gain like he was trying to warn me I shouldn’t be so confident.  There was getting harassed and cat called on the street over and over again. I remember one week in Pittsburgh something uncomfortable happened nearly every time I left campus. Someone slowed their car down to shout acts of sexual violence at me. I felt so angry and powerless.

    And then there’s the literal cost of being a woman, the clothes, the makeup, the time we are expected to put into looking nice otherwise we’ll get asked “Are you sick? You look tired.” My beautiful friends with self-esteems that are torn apart not just by the the images of beauty in magazines and movies, but by their own friends who are fret about diets, weight, hair, and skin care until it becomes a just normal culture to feel bad about yourself. Which I do, still, all the time.

    It all really wore on me.

    I can’t be aware of what’s happening and do nothing. I can’t say nothing. Because we live in a country where a man can get caught in the act or raping a woman and get a boys-will-be-boys slap on the wrist. Where being a famous woman means also getting tweets, messages, and comments about your looks, your voice, or just flat out threats and sexual harassment. And now more than ever I have fear of this anti-feminist culture where our president-elect boasts about sexual assault, demeans women beyond their looks, and represents a movement that is taking aware our access to healthcare. I wish we didn’t need feminism, but we do.

    Yes, it’s just a march. By participating, things won’t magically change the next day. Unfortunately it’s not that easy. You show up because you care. You show up because it matters. You show up because you want to teach others that you think it matters. It one day and one distance in your life, but it means a lot to others.

    I hope you’ll give it some serious thought.

  • What I know now // 028

    I wanted to try a different format because I’ve transitioned mostly from articles to podcasts since starting work. Instead of a monthly list of some of my favorite articles, maybe a deep dive into some really great podcasts I’ve listened to recently?

    Recently I listened to Revisionist History, a podcast hosted by Malcolm Gladwell. In general, what has stood out to me about this podcast compared to others is the strong stance that Gladwell takes on topics. I’m used to the kind of “here’s all the information, you decide” reporting of other podcasts, but Gladwell is clear about his positions, I first noticed this in Food fight. 

    He did a 3-part series on education and you better believe that I really liked it (education is everything). It’s also really hard for me to summarize them, but I’ll try—I realized I was fighting the urge to just retell everything in the podcast. If you are in a time crunch, the first one, Carlos doesn’t remember, is my favorite of the series.

    Hope you enjoy!

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  • The making of gold leaf [video]

    I came across a click-bait title about this video and had some low expectations. It’s a ‘how-its-made’a bout gold leaf. The incredible part is that, when you think it was sufficiently complicated and they should have stopped approximately 1/10th of the actual process. It’s an incredibly long, labor-intensive process and I can’t imagine how someone came up with this process and was like: “Yeah, let’s do this again.”

    Enjoy! Or feel lazy or horrified!



  • For all the language nerds

    I found this Merriam-Webster ask the editor series and had to share. So fascinating!


  • Books to read in 2016

    First, let’s set some context.

    A couple of weeks ago Grant sent me a kind of alarming article, The Tail End, breaking down our lives into moments and the activities we get in them.

    And so on, into how many winter’s we’ll have in our life, how many times we’ll go to the beach, how many times we’ll eat potstickers, and how many times we’ll see our parents in our lifetimes. When you look at all that stuff laid out it’s pretty crazy to think life as a limited amount of experiences. The way we experience is always looking into the future where there’s an incomprehensible number of tomorrows, but the author has us look back on our lives from the hypothetical end and you realize how limited your experience can actually be.

    One of the things that really stuck out to me though, was his part on books. Yeah, not the family ones, but the one about books.

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  • “The Art of the Gag” (video)

    I stumbled across this video and really enjoyed learning the little bit of history on Buster Keaton and his influence on visual comedy. Thought you’d like it too.


  • ‘Grammar, Identity, and the Dark Side of the Subjunctive’ by Phuc Tran

    I finally watched this video that my brother sent me a while ago. And I think it was perfect timing because I just finished When Heaven and Earth Changed Places this weekend, a book about a Vietnamese refugee’s experiences during the war and coming back to Vietnam years later as an adult. (This video isn’t actually about being Vietnamese refugee, but that’s how he launches his story and it was just an interesting tie into what I was just reading).

    Tran talks about how the subjunctive (what might have been) isn’t a part of the language in Vietnamese, only the imperative is present. Since he grew up in the America, he the English language ‘allowed’ him able to dream about what could be, but that he found real value in the imperative speech of his family. Sometimes it’s better not to speculate on what could be, should be, would be in an alternative reality. It was a refreshing reminder for me, someone who constantly lives in the subjunctive.


  • What I know now // 025